Making a difference through the KZN Film Commission
In 2013, Carol joined the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission (KZNFC) as the CEO and the first employee. This position provided her with an opportunity to shape the design of the new business and its operations.
In establishing the KZNFC, Carol took the principal approach that the entity would operate efficiently while still adhering to the government legislative framework, in that bureaucracy would be minimised and private sector approaches adopted wherever possible. She was able to apply her knowledge gained at the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) to develop the sector through small business development, empowerment initiatives, and skills development that she had learnt over time in her previous roles.
‘Film is a fascinating industry to work in,’ she says. ‘Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages, including an initial story, idea, or commission that has to be funded, through to screenwriting, casting, shooting, sound recording and pre-production, editing, and screening the finished product to an audience. Many people do not realise how complex and captivating the business of making films is, nor how many people are involved at every stage.’
Among the many aspects of the industry that Carol loves, she says the ability to provide insights into socio-economic stories about our society is most compelling. ‘Films provide insight into different cultural groups, gender issues, women’s rights, xenophobia, disabilities and many other issues that affect our people. The film industry has an important role to play in the promotion of economic development, social cohesion, and nation-building.’
Under her leadership, KZNFC aims to make KZN a film production centre and has put in place systems and policies to support and attract national and international role-players in the film industry.
‘We were keen to promote KwaZulu-Natal as a globally competitive, choice film destination, but we also realised that we need to have studios and skilled crew members to do that. We have invested heavily in skills development programmes for the local industry and to support local and international filmmakers who want to create opportunities to grow the KwaZulu-Natal film industry. Previously KZN saw one project taking place in a year, whereas we now oversee more than a dozen productions annually. Telenovelas such as Uzalo and Imbewu are among the most popular in the country and are filmed in Durban. These have had a significant impact on our local economy in terms of job creation, skills development and positive social contribution to the local community.’
Carol says KZNFC is also committed to audience development and funds film festivals as well as community screenings to create a consumer base while educating people on the sector and the opportunities it presents in the various peripheral industries which support the production.
The genesis of her passion for public service
When Carol completed her BCom degree in 1992, her goal was to become an accounting teacher, but her older sister, already a practising CA(SA), said ‘no way’. Instead, Carol joined the Office of the Auditor-General as an auditor and remained there until 1995. It was this first experience in the public sector that made her feel like she was making a positive contribution to society.
In 1996, Carol joined Ernst & Young (EY) and completed her traineeship at the firm. While there, she was seconded as an independent financial manager to the Umsekeli Development Board for a year. There she was required to verify all activities and expenses logged by a consulting firm that had been appointed to project manage the local elections.
After that, she was seconded as project manager for the National School Nutrition Programme at the Department of Health. She initiated the coordination of government departments to enhance service delivery and developed simple financial manuals for school governing bodies and educators.
She returned to the Auditor-General in 1998 to complete her contractual obligations and then joined EY for a second time as a consultant.
In 2000, one of EY client’s, the Provincial Treasury of KwaZulu-Natal, was seeking an accountant-general. ‘The word was out there that the client was difficult and the role a complex one, but I was confident that the skills that I had acquired in becoming a CA(SA) would hold me in good stead. My colleagues were anxious about applying, but I went ahead and following a three-hour intensive interview, the position was offered to me first as a two-year secondment, which was then converted to full-time employment,’ she says.
‘I happened to join at a particularly interesting time when the PFMA was being introduced and a shift in public sector financial management. The public sector was changing, with decentralisation of functions, thereby empowering heads of departments while being held accountable. A key project was the development of extensive training programmes for all levels of management and political leaders and the development of accounting practices and policies. This project also included the introduction of supply chain management, appointment of CFOs, providing technical advice and support to all provincial departments. It was an exciting time in the country’s history, and it felt great to be part of the changes that were happening.’
Six years down the line, just as Carol began to think that her job was becoming mundane, she was provided an exceptional opportunity to head the EDTEA. ‘I was happy to take on the challenge,’ she says. ‘We had a R2-billion budget, which included the establishment of Dube Trade Port, the development of King Shaka International Airport, and the preparations for the 2010 World Cup. It was a massive portfolio that required a lot of engagement with the private sector. I chaired the economic cluster, and I was excited to be part of new ways of looking at poverty alleviation. One of the key programmes we developed was Operation Sukume Sakhe (Stand up and Build), which aims to provide a holistic government service to households instead of individuals having to move from one department to another for assistance. We spent a lot of time going into poor communities and understanding what the real needs were on the ground and finding practical sustainable solutions such as One-Home-One-Garden.’
While she thoroughly enjoyed the role, the job was all-consuming. Carol’s personal circumstances at the time led her to take a decision that her children needed her support and attention and therefore she decided after five years in the role to move to a position where she could do just that.
‘I returned to EY as the Head of Business Development, but I found it challenging to achieve congruency between my role and my passion for poverty alleviation and changing people’s lives. I remember a conversation with Dr Zweli Mkhize (my former direct supervisor), then Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, where he had told me I would be back in the public sector, and he was right.’ After 18 months, in 2013, Carol joined the KZNFC as the CEO and the first employee.
She says she is happy that her sister encouraged her to become a CA(SA). ‘I am living proof that the qualification opens doors to any industry you can think of,’ she says. ‘It equips you with professionalism, ethics, rational logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a wealth of intelligent approaches to different challenges. It’s also one of those careers in which you never stop learning.’
When she is not working, Carol likes to spend time in nature, walking on the beach, exercising and reading. With her daughters now being adults, she has the flexibility to explore and do whatever she likes in her free time. A music lover and a hippy at heart, top of her list post-lockdown is to go to Splashy Fen, South Africa’s longest-running and oldest music festival.